Alumnus produces hit TV show

Natan Shayevich, Features Editor

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Glenbrook North alumnus Nathan Ross (‘91) in front of a GBN baseball field after watching a varsity game on May 13. Sports were a passion of Ross’ while he was at GBN. Photo by Natan Shayevich

The production team for the HBO series “Big Little Lies,” a show about murder and deceit in Monterey, California, includes Academy Award-winning actresses Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, as well as Glenbrook North alumnus Nathan Ross (‘91).

According to Ross, “Big Little Lies,” which aired on HBO from February to April 2017, is his first television show as a producer.

“A producer’s main job or goal is to move a project from a development stage, when it’s on paper or even a shred of an idea, to completion,” said Ross. “[Early] on, I’m involved in [the] architecture of putting the show together and sometimes involved in the development of the script or rewrite of the scripts. I’m involved in the casting process, and I’m on set about 80 percent of the time, solving problems, making sure everything’s going smoothly. I’m not super involved with the hard physical producing of the show, but I’m there, dealing with scheduling of actors or if something comes up and it’s a problem, I’m trying my best to solve it.”          

Ross said he moved to Los Angeles when he was 28 years old, after graduating from John Marshall Law School and passing the Illinois State Bar Examination. He decided to move west, working his way up from starting as a second assistant for an agent at ICM, one of the largest talent agencies in LA. After seven years, he met his future filmmaking partner, director Jean-Marc Vallée and left ICM in 2010 to work on their first film, “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Ross’ mom Lily Krefetz said in a phone interview that when “Dallas Buyers Club” was nominated for six Oscars and she was invited to the awards as Ross’ guest, it felt like a dream.

“Vanity Fair did a dinner, and there were about 30 people there, including Matthew [McConaughey], Jared [Leto] and Jennifer [Garner],” said Krefetz. “But Nathan, he always takes his mom. It’s very special and very meaningful.”

Ross said growing up in Northbrook gave him an advantage in the movie industry.

“It’s easy for people in the film business [to identify with me] when I say that I’m from the place where they shot “Ferris Bueller,” “Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles,” that I went to the same high school as John Hughes,” said Ross. “People could immediately paint a picture of what that upbringing looked like because people from all over the world, of all different ages, had seen those films. They were able to identify with my upbringing.”

Krefetz said her family would go to the movies once or twice a week, instilling Ross with an early love for the “big silver screen.”

According to Krefetz, Ross puts members of his family into all of his projects as extras, having them travel to shooting locations as diverse as New Orleans, the woods of Oregon and the beaches of Monterey. For the premiere of “Big Little Lies,” Ross’ family got to walk the red carpet together, which was “thrilling.”

According to Ross, he and Vallée had made three films together before Reese Witherspoon and her former producing partner submitted the script for “Big Little Lies” to Ross and Vallée.

“[Vallée and I] chose to take a departure from making films to making television,” said Ross. “We were going to make high end, high pedigree television shows [and] shoot them like films that were going to be a lot longer and more time consuming. So we started shooting [‘Big Little Lies’] in January of 2016 and finished in June of ‘16, and then I drove home from LA to Northbrook and was home for a good amount of time for lots of Cubs games and concerts.”

According to Ross, he is still a part of the GBN community, attending football and baseball games and helping out people from GBN who would benefit from his expertise.

Broadcasting teacher Todd Rubin said in an email that he called Ross to see if Ross could help Rubin with his plan for the 2018 broadcasting trip to Los Angeles.

Ross said he could “maybe open a door or two” for the broadcasting class that is traveling to learn more about the industry and career paths they wish to follow.

According to Ross, he moved to California to pursue his passions.

“I always wanted to be involved with movies, music or sports, and between the weather and those industries, Los Angeles was a good place to be,” said Ross. “After I graduated college, me and some of my buddies from Glenbrook North went on a road trip on the West coast, and the first time I saw LA, I knew I was going to be here eventually.”

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Alumnus produces hit TV show